Child labour increases worldwide for the first time in 20 years

A new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF shows that the number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide. This is the first time that child labour numbers have increased in over 20 years.

The report was released ahead of World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June. 2021 is also the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

Molly Harriss Olson, CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), is deeply saddened by this new trend and says that it’s up to all of us to ensure that children aren’t deprived of their childhood – or their potential.

“We know that almost one in ten children are trapped in child labour throughout the world, many of them working inside the global food chain. Fairtrade has engineered a system that works to both prevent child labour, and to address it when it’s found in our partner’s supply chains,” she says.

“The situation with child labour is dire now but the ILO is also warning that an additional nine million children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 because of the pandemic.”

School closures, coupled with limits on migrant labour, mean that boys and girls are now more vulnerable. If parents become infected with the virus, children and youth, particularly girls, may end up assuming greater responsibilities for their family’s survival.

Fairtrade’s system seeks to empower producers by addressing the root causes of child labour – endemic poverty and unfair trading conditions. The aim is to alleviate any form of indentured labour in supply chains through heavily audited and rigorous processes.

“If we do find child labour in one of our company’s audited supply chains, we then engage protocols to protect the child before working with the community to find a solution which can be implemented in a positive way. The last thing we want is for the harmful practices to be driven somewhere else where there is not a means, like the Fairtrade system, to stop it,” says Ms Harriss Olson.

“So really, if you care about child labour, one of the simplest things you can do is buy Fairtrade products. This year – and this day – seems like the right time to start.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with Molly Harris Olson, Fairtrade ANZ CEO, contact Virginia Jones, Ph 61 0439 430 033 or

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